Disclaimer: minor spoilery content ahead.
This was exactly what I expected a supernatural road trip to be, in the best of ways: horrifying, dark, exciting, and loads of fun.
Demon Road follows Amber Lamont, a once normal sixteen-year-old girl, who goes on the run after discovering a deadly family secret. Along the titular Demon Road, she discovers the supernatural landscape of America, filled with a host of creatures and characters that literally made my skin crawl with how sick and terrifying they were.
What this book benefits greatly from is the author’s ability to instil you with a sense of fear, apprehension, and, for lack of better description, the creeps. I’ve always admired authors who could do this, because they turn images and ideas that seem so outlandish and over-used on the page — like literal red-skinned demons with horns, and old-school vampires, respectively — into things that can still trigger a sense of fear and even awe, in spite of it being fiction.
The book starts off with a great opening line:
Twelve hours before Amber Lamont’s parents tried to kill her, she was sitting between them in the principal’s office, her hands in her lap, stifling all the things she wanted to say.
To say that it peaked my interest immediately is an understatement. Why did her parents try to kill her? What was she doing in the principal’s office? What happened in between? I wanted to keep reading more.
Milo, Amber and the Charger
As the book continues, we are introduced to the other two characters w￼ho will become part of Amber’s journey: Milo and his 1970 Dodge Charger. Their characters are very much shrouded in mystery and you slowly begin to realise that just like a lot of things within the world of Demon Road, Milo is more than just the man hired to escort Amber, and the Charger is more than just his car. The three of them together create for really interesting dynamics because they all have such different personalities and experiences. Amber is naive to the workings of this supernatural world she’s been thrust in, and her newfound abilities, Milo is more experienced and approaches things pragmatically, and the Charger is just straight up elusive. This books benefits greatly from this, and while their relationship starts off as a business transaction on Milo’s part, as they go on their little ‘road trip’, enduring the difficulties of being on the run, looking over their shoulder, and the dangers of the supernatural world, it becomes so much more than that. A partnership based on trust, respect, and even necessity, begins to form, and it was great seeing that blossom on the page. Especially considering how things turn out in the end.
As I mentioned earlier, Derek Landy really knows how to make the atmosphere genuinely terrifying. There was a whole sequence that involved a dollhouse and a serial killer that was so well-written that the images formed in my head as I read it are still so vivid to me now, months after reading it. Not to mention the fact that this book was pretty violent and gore-y. There were some scenes that literally had me in shock because up until that point, I had never encountered a young-adult book so vividly and unapologetically vicious. I didn’t think they could get as vividly vicious as this book did. It was a pleasant surprise though, and really brought home the fact that, yes, I’m definitely reading a book about demons. How can there not be a little bit of blood?
I think there were really only two things that I disliked about this book. First is that I couldn’t really connect with Imelda’s love for Amber. It’s motivation for Imelda to do what she does for our main character, however because there was never any indication beforehand that she cared about her, it felt out of place and the least authentic of all the relationships. The second is that Glenn kind of … annoyed me? I think the comedic relief that he provided helped balanced out the really dark aspects of the book, but I couldn’t help but feel like he dragged the story a little.
These factors didn’t really affect my rating though, because I give this book five stars! Amber is a likeable, fleshed out, and relatable protagonist, and it was a treat to witness as her came to terms with her discovery.
This is my favourite quote from the book because it really encapsulates the dark and dry humour found in Demon Road.